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Building a Better Food System


Building a Better Food System

By Steve Schwartz

This holiday season I am counting my blessings. I've been blessed with new insights on food access, interfaith relations and sustainability by listening to, and problem-solving with, local clergy and lay leaders who are standing shoulder to shoulder working to build a better food system. 

Over the last year, the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative increased the number of congregations we've engaged by 70%. Representatives of more than 100 congregations have now participated in our programs.  We've been able to bring attention to the work of Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Muslims locally and nationally that are leading the way for faith-based communities working for food justice and sustainability.

In 2014, we expanded our work to convene and train faith group leaders. For the first time, we were able to offer 10 mini-grants to congregations to advance community gardens, SNAP ('food stamp') program outreach, and other projects. We have been amazed at what even $500 can do to catalyze volunteers at congregations like Greater Powerhouse Church of God and Congregation Kol Shofar.

We have also supported 7 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) partnerships between local farms and faith-based groups, including funding three to cover half of the purchase price for SNAP participants. This work is pioneering models for marketing local produce in ways that respond to the realities low-income families face. 

In 2015, we will again take the organization's work to a higher level by highlighting successful congregational projects; and organizing events that build bridges among food and faith leaders. We will also facilitate policy advocacy around the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act which supports farm to school programming and local food procurement.  

Earlier this week, President Obama lit the White House Christmas tree. Yesterday, he lit a Hanukkah menorah with two youth, one Muslim and one Jewish, and said, "One act of faith can make a miracle... let's commit ourselves to making some small miracles ourselves and then sharing them with the world."

Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative

632 Petaluma Avenue

Sebastopol, CA 95472